Broncos fail to make a splash early in free agency

The NFL free agency period has begun, signaling the start of the new league year. Blockbuster trades accompanied by potentially franchise changing signings flooded the headlines but a notable team hasn’t made the news: the Denver Broncos.

free agency

Newly signed Denver Bronco Menelik Watson speaks at a press conference while a member of the Oakland Raiders.
Photo from Flickr.

John Elway and the rest of the Broncos front office have made it a priority to upgrade their porous offensive line from a year ago. To do this, the Broncos signed two veteran free agents in tackle Menelik
Watson and guard Ronald Leary. However, the signings are underwhelming from a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

Leary, who primarily plays left guard, is an interesting player. In 2014 Leary played great. In 2015, he saw limited action thanks to a nagging groin injury and was replaced by La’el Collins. In 2016, Collins suffered an injury. Leary took over, started 13 games and played well. However, he’s coming to a broken offensive line. His struggles could have been masked in Dallas, but that won’t be the case now. This is a step in the right direction for Denver, as any addition is an improvement over what they had in 2016, but by no means is it a franchise changing move.

Watson plays primarily right tackle. He’s a physical blocker with a 6’5”, 315 lb frame, but has a history of injuries. Since being drafted in the second round in 2013, Watson has played in just 27 games and started 17 games. He had first round potential coming out of Florida State and could still be a good guard, but he’s 28-years-old and playing with less experience than a number of second year linemen. He
showed in the postseason that he has no business playing left tackle against more athletic edge rushers
like Jadeveon Clowney. Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack and Justin Houston would probably do much of the same.

The Broncos need to make more moves. Elway doesn’t have the same touch in free agency as he did in 2013 and 2014 and the team could struggle because of it.

The offensive line needs serious help and with two middle-of-the-road signings, the line is only in slightly better shape. It’s okay to be frugal in this period if the talent isn’t there, but being frugal for the sake of being frugal has prevented many teams in the past from taking that next step to championship contenders and could keep the Broncos from doing the same.

Author: James Burky

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